Sunday, March 28, 2010

U.S. Maternal Death Rates on the Rise

As part of my PE continuing education, and as a nursing student interested in women's health, I found the recent reports on maternal death rates in the U.S. to be shocking. The following information is from Amnesty International and UK Guardian.

Maternal death rates have doubled since the 1980s
6.6/100,000 women in 1987
13.3/100,000 women in 2006
The U.S. is worse than 40 other countries including most industrialized nations

The women most at risk:
Native American and African American women who live in poverty and are uninsured
Amnesty International reports that these women are "put at risk due to neglect"

1:4,800 is the risk of dying in childbirth in the U.S.
Best countries: Ireland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy and Greece

International effort to decrease the maternal death rate in developing countries
Women Deliver conference in Washington D.C. brainstormed about these issues
Taken up by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Brown (UK)

Health care reform does not address systemic problems, discrimination, or lack of accountability
Amnesty International is pushing President Obama to set up a maternal health office to
address these issues directly

34,000 women in the U.S. experience a "near miss" during delivery every year
A "near miss" means that these women came close to dying, but were rescued

1:4 women don't receive antenatal (prenatal) checkups
1:3 African American and Native American women are without antenatal (prenatal) care

1/3 of U.S. deliveries are completed via C-section
This is twice the rate than the World Health Organization recommends
Risk of death is 3x greater with C-section than with vaginal delivery

Nearly 13 million women of reproductive age (1:5) are without health insurance
Minorities account for 50% of the 1:5 rate

In California, the death rate went from 5.6/100,000 to 16.9/100,000 in the past decade
Most common causes of death: hemorrhage, deep vein thrombosis (clots), and underlying
cardiac disease

Amnesty International completed the report as part of their "Demand Dignity" campaign "to end human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty"

As a future health care professional, I feel we can do so much better than this. The newly passed health care legislation may perhaps assist in quelling some of these issues, but I don't know when it will take effect. Perhaps the increase in maternal death rate can be linked to higher risk pregnancies: increase rates of overweight/obesity in women, diabetes, heart disease and bearing children at an older age. However, women should be allowed to have great prenatal care, and complications of pregnancy should be prevented. How can you prevent these complications if prenatal care is difficult to access? At the very least, stores like Meijer are providing free prenatal vitamins to low income women, but you need a prescription to get the vitamins.

It's obvious more primary prevention needs to be established in this country, with better access to health care for pregnant women.

The Amnesty International Executive Director, Larry Cox, summed it up nicely:
"Good maternal care should not be considered a luxury available only to those who can access the best hospitals and the best doctors. Women should not die in the richest country on earth from preventable complications and emergencies."


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